The Nekton Assemblage of Salt Marsh Pools in a Southeastern United States Estuary
Marsh pools are present in estuaries throughout the world and provide valuable habitat for fishes and decapod crustaceans (i.e., nekton). The purpose of our study was to examine the species composition and temporal variation of the nekton assemblage within marsh pools of a southeastern US estuary. We conducted weekly sampling of five marsh pools in the North Inlet estuary, SC from May to November 2016. Temporal variation in the nekton assemblage appeared to be related to the life history of individual species, tidal connectivity of pools with adjacent habitats, and environmental conditions within pools. Most transient species, which migrate into the North Inlet estuary as larvae or juveniles, were present primarily in early summer and late fall. Many transient species were absent or occurred in low abundance during July and August when water temperature was highest, salinity most variable, and tidal connectivity with adjacent habitats was lowest. In contrast, most resident species, which can complete their entire life cycle within the North Inlet estuary, were present and relatively abundant throughout the study as juveniles and adults. Based on the limited studies available, species richness and the ratio of transient to resident species in marsh pools at low latitudes (e.g., southeastern US) are higher compared to marsh pools at high latitudes (e.g., east coast of Canada). A more comprehensive understanding of the role of marsh pools in the life history of nekton would be useful for conserving, managing, and restoring salt marshes and the species found in these environments.
KeywordsEstuary Marsh pools Nekton Resident Salt marsh Transient
We thank A. Adams and J. Wilson from the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust for their suggestions and guidance with the development and execution of this project. We would also like to thank faculty, staff, and students from the USC Baruch Marine Field Laboratory (D. Allen, S. Forehand, M. Kennedy, P. Kenny, T. Thomas), Cornell College Rogers Fellowship in Environmental Studies program (R. Bulger, J. Dean, J. Tesensky), and Wofford College (K. Dickson, D. Kusher, K. Moorhouse) for their assistance with this study. The suggestions of L. Rozas, the associate editor, and two anonymous reviewers improved the manuscript. This research was conducted in accordance with the guidelines set forth in University of South Carolina IACUC Animal Care and Use Protocols #2154-100810-040814, #2264-101032-080315, and #2273-101047-093015.
Funding for this research was provided by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.
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